Mortimer Caplin, Charismatic and Hard-Driving IRS Commissioner, Dies at 103

The Washington Post

Mortimer Caplin, an eminence of tax law who propelled an often low-profile bureaucratic position into the national spotlight while serving as President John F. Kennedy’s hard-driving and charismatic commissioner of internal revenue, died July 15 at his home in Chevy Chase, Md. He was 103.

His son Lee Caplin confirmed the death but did not specify a cause.

Mr. Caplin brought political savvy and an extrovert’s flair to a somber profession mostly characterized by its fascination with loopholes and number crunching.

He was the star middleweight of a national championship boxing team as a University of Virginia undergraduate in the mid-1930s and later graduated first in his class from the university’s law school. He was a beach master during the Normandy invasion in World War II and then continued a prominent career in private practice and academia.

He spent 33 years on the faculty of the U-Va. law school and jokingly credited his Internal Revenue Service appointment in 1961 to his “good judgment — the good judgment to have both Bobby and Teddy Kennedy as students at the University of Virginia and to pass them both.”

In a career spanning seven decades, he also founded Caplin & Drysdale, a heavyweight Washington-based tax-law firm. But his legacy rests predominantly on his 3 1/2 years as a fiercely independent-minded IRS commissioner.

Read more at The Washington Post.

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